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US will not tolerate unfair policy to push trade: Jack Lew

February 13, 2015 09:06 IST

In an exclusive interview, Jack Lew tells NDTV he believes recovery in US is not fragile, though he remains concerned about the pace of growth in other parts of the world. The US, he says, will push back very hard when it sees countries acting unfairly on currencies. Even as he remains optimistic on India and hopes reforms will make investment environment more attractive here, he wants Finance Minister to give investors more clarity on policies. Excerpts:

You are just back from a G-20 meeting. What was the message and the key takeaway?

There was a common focus on the need for growth and stability, and we had lot of discussions on both topics. I think the challenge the world faces is to have the whole global economy picking up, not just dependence on the US as the sole driver.

What's your view on the US economy? I read somewhere that you said it had turned the corner.

I think it has turned the corner. If you look at economic growth over the past six months, we have seen a dramatic change. There is sustained growth in jobs and an increase in wages - of over two per cent. We are seeing strength in manufacturing and a comeback in the housing and construction sector, which was the slowest part of the economy to recover from the recession.

What do you make of what is happening in the euro zone?

There are multiple things that are challenging. There has been a reluctance to use the fiscal tools - there are some countries that have fiscal space, others do not. Having deployed the monetary policy tools, if Europe were to use some of its fiscal space to grow demand, the monetary policy would become more effective.

Most countries are devaluing their currencies to stimulate their exports amid weak domestic demand. China, some say, is launching a programme that will devalue the yuan...

There is a big difference between countries using domestic tools for domestic purposes and macroeconomic tools to grow their economy - that is something the world agreed to and the US used in quantitative easing, for example. It is another thing to target your currencies for gaining unfair trade advantage. We have been clear, we will not adopt - and will push back very hard on - that kind of unfair policy.

For India, the prospects are looking better, with a new government in place. What is your perception?

There is a great deal of enthusiasm for the reform agenda that the prime minister has put forward. I hear it globally, and from business leaders in India and the US. The desire for economic relations is strong on both sides, and I think it is in our mutual interest. This is a relationship we can develop, and the reforms that the PM has spoken about will make India an even more attractive investment target.

What do you make of the government's 'Make In India' campaign?

There are aspects of the programme that are designed to make it easier do business in India, and to get manufacturing and other jobs growing. India has no shortage of talent or entrepreneurs. The programme will remove some of the obstacles, so, if implemented as planned, it should lead to significant job creation and investment.

A big focus area for the government is adding jobs, and there is a debate on how to do it...

I don't believe there is one solution to creating jobs. In an economy as large as India's, there is a need for many areas of growth. So, there will be some growth in manufacturing. And, there will be other things like entrepreneurs doing start-ups and creating the economic engine for the future. If India is able to design its economic programme to encourage some more risk-taking, more entrepreneurship will help open small and large doors.

You were at the UID Centre. How do you see the programme?

I thought it was very impressive. Inclusive financing is very important. To sign up 800 million people in a programme where they have access to banking services, many for the first time, is extraordinary. People are enthusiastic about having access to banking services.

Business Standard